After Over 90 Million Visitors, World’s 5th Oldest Zoo To Shut After 186 Years

One of the world’s oldest zoos is set to close after 186 years.

Bristol Zoo Gardens, run by the Bristol Zoological Charity, opened in 1836 and is the fifth oldest zoo in the world.

The zoo said it had welcomed about 90 million visitors since it opened and its conservation programmes had helped save many species from extinction.

Scores of people queued up on Saturday morning to visit the Victorian-era zoo before it closed for the final time.

Among the crowds were Sarah Farrell and her partner, Jon, who got married in the Clifton Pavilion next to the zoo’s butterflies and flamingos in October 2018.

“It was somewhere we both loved to visit, we loved the atmosphere and how it held history through its beautiful buildings as well as being a zoo,” Ms Farrell, a primary school teacher from Bristol said.

Paul Lewis, 62, is one of three generations in his family who have worked at the zoo, including his father, Michael, who was head of indoor gardening.

He described the zoo as “a huge part” of his life, somewhere that “gave us as a family secure employment for 50 years”.

His father got his first job at the zoo in 1945, and Mr Lewis said his grandfather was also employed there for a number of years.

Mr Lewis also said while he feels “nostalgic” about the zoo amid its closure, he believes it “was always cramped”.

“I, as others are, am sorry to see the zoo close as it holds many memories for my family,” he said.

People flocked to the zoo on Saturday before it closes for good

“But to survive and continue the education and breeding programmes they have, I think it needs the space and larger enclosures.”

When it first opened, the zoo featured animals which had been sourced by affluent families and which were brought to the UK on ships by sailors.

While the site used to include wildlife such as elephants, tigers and polar bears these were eventually deemed unsuitable to be housed there.

Bristol Zoo has also helped young people gain experience and knowledge of animal welfare. The charity has links to both Bristol University and the University of the West of England.

The organisation offered six degree courses and had 380 students studying alongside the zoo.

The zoo said even though it was closing, students would continue to receive their education with the team.

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